Berry Blessed

Today is the 82nd birthday of a guy I’ve known for a large part of my life. Duke, as he is known by his family and friends, is my father-in-law. Many would say that Duke is a unique character, and with good reason. You might see him in the small Fayette County village, where he was born and raised, working in his vegetable garden where his specialties are beets, potatoes and corn or he could be found sitting on his front porch snoring with a gun magazine or a book (he’s an avid reader of a variety of subjects) in hand. Often though, he can be seen taking walks – a walking stick in his hand, a gun on his hip, a newspaper-wrapped bottle of drinking water, a package of chewing tobacco in his shirt pocket, and a metal bucket attached to a strap over his shoulder during berry season. Come rain or shine or snow, each Sunday morning Duke can be seen in his dress clothes making the short walk (which he had done for many years with his beloved Margaret) to and from the little white United Methodist Church where he worships.

It might be surprising for some to learn how much Duke and I have in common. We both enjoy stomping about in the woods and fields. We both like walking and exploring in the mountains, canning vegetables from the garden, and picking wild raspberries and blackberries. We grew up with decades between us, but both spent our childhoods berry picking. It was an activity passed on to me by my dad “Turtle.” In my youth, we picked for hours at a time during berry season, sometimes gathering berries by the gallons. Dad’s health has declined in recent years, so he no longer ventures out for berry picking. I’m thankful though that the love for berry picking was passed on to me and my husband Scott, then to our 2 sons, and now even on to our young granddaughters. 

Last week, Scott and I had set a little time aside and made plans with Duke to drive to the mountains for some berry picking. Just before the time arrived to leave, Scott, whose job involves being on call, was needed to go back out to work. It’s nothing new for us, just a part of life for those in the telecommunications field. Not wanting to miss another day of gathering berries needed for making homemade jam, I decided that I would still go, even if alone. After making a quick call to Duke, I had a berry picking partner, so off we went to the mountains! Over the years, I’m sure we’ve picked berries together dozens of times. And here we were still at it, an 82 year old with his not-so-young-anymore daughter-in-law. Hours later, we emerged from the weeds and the jagger bushes with several buckets full of plump, juicy, shiny, sweet blackberries! 

Our family is blessed, “berry blessed,” that today we’ll gather for Bud’s pizza and wings to celebrate another birthday together with the man all of his grandchildren call “Pap Duke.” When I open our jars of blackberry jam in the months ahead, it will be a reminder of these hot summer days spent together wiping the sweat from our brows and tramping down the weeds while filling our blackberry buckets. It will be another reminder of the blessings and the beauty of God’s marvelous creation and of His goodness to us.

HOPE NUGGET: Because he has his heart set on me,I will deliver him; I will protect him because he knows my name. When he calls out to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble. I will rescue him and give him honor. I will satisfy him with a long life and show him my salvation.  [Psalm 91: 14-16]

For the Love of Music!

After a few months of hiatus in sharing blog posts, I’m back to writing again. In several previous posts, I wrote of how music has been such an important part of my life. I grew up with a mom who probably played music daily on the record player. She would teach us the jitterbug and other dance steps as we bebopped around the living room. I learned just about every Elvis Presley song during those years, as well as tunes by Conway Twitty, Loretta Lynn, Jerry Lee Lewis, Charley Pride, Johnny Cash and so many others. I didn’t embrace my mom’s love of country music as a teen or young adult, but instead enjoyed the sound of what is now referred to as Classic Rock. For years, I didn’t venture far from that particular genre of music.

Beginning in the mid to late 80s, though and in my early years after becoming a Christian, a change occurred. Contemporary Christian music became a favorite of mine and was instrumental in my growth as a new follower of Christ. I was greatly influenced by the music of Keith Green, Carman, Michael W. Smith, Petra, Phil Keaggy and Second Chapter of Acts. Their music ushered me into special times of worship and prayer to the Lord and helped to form my early Christian experiences and worldview.

Music has always played a big role in my and my husband’s lives. In fact, it was through music that we met…a long time ago….in Jr. High school…in band class. He, the ever-so-slightly rebellious baritone player, and me, the goofy immature young clarinet player. The rest is history. But in any case, music always remained important. From the 8-track player in Scott’s International Scout blasting tunes by Boston, Fleetwood Mac and Lynyrd Skynyrd to my vinyl collection to cassette tapes to CDs. My interest in and love for music even led to taking a few guitar lessons as a young mom which never went anywhere in the midst of a busy military lifestyle. Later on, my desire to play guitar was resparked, so I purchased a classical guitar and started practicing again which led to an opportunity to lead a school music program where I teach basic guitar and music appreciation.

Our love and appreciation for music was passed on to our 2 sons. We often sang songs together and played kids’ music tapes during their early childhood. When they were old enough, they were enrolled in piano classes. Our younger son Simon took up the clarinet in the school band and both boys began singing in church and in elementary school choirs which led to performing solos on stage in high school. More instruments were added, actually, many more. Our sons took their love of music and their God-given musical talents to levels beyond what we had ever done ourselves or ever thought might happen with them. They used their musical talents to serve in various church ministries. Their involvement in music led to what they would say as musicians were some of their most enjoyable and memorable times of life, when their old-timey band was formed with friends from church.

Laurel Mountain Jug Band busking in the streets of Pittsburgh PA (Chuck, Simon, Nathan, Nick)
Wagon Wheel cover by Laurel Mountain Jug Band, our sons and their friends (Click on the link to listen!)

While still in high school, our older son Nick was introduced to the music of a little known band by the name of Old Crow Medicine Show. The music of Old Crow is best described as old-timey bluegrass, their most famous song being “Wagon Wheel” which become popular when covered by Darius Rucker. The music of Old Crow become so loved by our sons and their band that they covered many of their songs for the shows which they played at local car cruises and community events, with “Wagon Wheel” considered to be their signature song. Recently, Nick’s interest in Old Crow Medicine Show led him on a journey to learn more of the band’s history. After many months and hours of research and gathering resources and documentation and video editing, Nick arranged and narrated a video containing that information. It’s a very interesting, informational and well done documentary video that would especially be enjoyed by fans of Old Crow Medicine Show.

Music documentary of the history of Old Crow Medicine Show, by my son Nick (Click on the link to listen!)

In a way, I guess you could say that my love of music has come full circle. From country music songs being played in the living room as a kid to enjoying hearing our sons and their friends perform wonderful cover versions of Johnny Cash and Old Crow Medicine Show, our love of music remains. It is a gift of God. A gift that we’ve enjoyed for over 50 years. A gift that we often use to offer praise to Him, the creator of the blessing of music.

HOPE NUGGET: “…addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart…” [Ephesians 5:19]

A Fresh Start With A New Heart

I remember that day vividly, nearly two and a half years ago. That morning, while getting ready for work, my sister-in-law Amy called to say that it looked like today would be the day. A day that our family had been anticipating for months. Her 18 year old son, our nephew Matthew, would undergo lengthy heart transplant surgery at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. There was no way of knowing for sure if the surgery would actually take place that day, or if so at what time. Being that the hospital was only about an hour drive away, I got ready and left for work.

On the day of Matthew’s birth, we had gathered at a local hospital, excited about meeting the newest addition to our family. There was no reason to think that there would be any problems; we fully expected a healthy baby to be delivered. Within a short while after birth, we were told that Matthew was having trouble breathing and that a heart problem was detected. It would be necessary to transfer him to Children’s of Pittsburgh where determinations could be made of his condition and where he would receive more specialized care. 

Matthew at 1 month old with cousins Nick & Simon
(Matthew usually has a much more pleasant personality than shown in this picture!)

The devastating news came soon: Matthew had been born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome. The left side of his heart was underdeveloped. The diagnosis came with 3 options for my husband’s brother and his wife. 1 – they could choose to not intervene at all which would mean Matthew would not survive. 2 – they could choose to do a heart transplant. 3 – they could choose to have Matthew undergo a series of surgical procedures over several years which would allow his life to be extended, hopefully at least into his teens. The third option was recommended by doctors and chosen by Matthew’s parents.

There we were, 18 years later. Matthew certainly had his share of struggles by then, but had a happy and fulfilling life. Even though his heart was filled with love and joy, it had become too weak to support and sustain his life. There would not be much more time ahead for him without a heart transplant. While at work later that day, I got the word that Matthew was being prepped for surgery. The day we had hoped and prayed for was finally here. Matthew’s hospital room slowly filled with a few friends and close family. There was joking, nervous laughter, some hidden tears (both of joy and concern), prayers, hugs and see-you-after-the-surgery goodbyes. Matthew waved as he was wheeled down the hallway and the rest of us headed to the waiting room where we’d be together until late in the evening. Hours later and much to everyone’s relief, the phone call to Matthew’s parents came informing them that the surgery was a success. The new heart was beating strongly inside Matthew’s chest. 

Matthew with one of his biggest supporters – his brother Andrew (ages 10 & 5)

Ezekiel was a prophet to the Jewish people for at least twenty-two years and lived among the Jewish exiles in Babylon. A large portion of Ezekiel’s message to the Jews communicated judgment due to their continued rebellion against God [Ezekiel 1-32]. Despite their disobedience to Him, God offered them a wonderful gift with a message of hope through Ezekiel: “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh” [Ezekiel 36:26]. God’s desire was to restore Israel physically and spiritually. Physical restoration would occur with Israel returning to its own land as a nation. Spiritual restoration would occur through His Spirit as God transformed them and empowered them to do His will. He gave them a fresh start with a new heart.

Matthew was given a fresh start. God answered our prayers by means of a generous heart donor and a talented and dedicated medical team who provided him with physical restoration. Without the transplant, Matthew could very well not be with us today. A new heart was required to sustain his life. You and I may never be in need of a heart transplant, but the Bible makes it clear that we are all, even more importantly, in need of spiritual restoration. We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God [Romans 3:23]. Like the rebellious Jews who received God’s message through Ezekiel and like the people of Judah in Jeremiah’s time who didn’t incline their ears to hear from God, our hearts are evil and stubborn and disobedient [Jeremiah 7:24]. Walking in our own counsel is not the remedy; only God can give a fresh start with a new heart. The requirement is to turn to Christ, to put our Hope and Trust in Him. “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10).

HOPE NUGGET: Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” [2 Corinthians 5:17].

The Lady in the Window

It’s funny how the brain works and how suddenly out of nowhere, a random thought occurs or a memory which was buried deep within suddenly resurfaces. This coming June will be 10 years since my dad’s mom, my Grandma Alice, passed away. She was 90 years old when she was found sitting at the window of her kitchen. Grandma had spent many hours at that window, a window positioned in such a way that a comfortable chair next to it allowed for a view of the church next door, the railroad trestle, the homes of several neighbors, including a granddaughter and her family, and the main road which ran through the small town.

From early childhood, I remember countless times when visiting Grandma that we’d find her relaxing in her chair at the window. Often during visits, we would sit around the kitchen table while Grandma sat in her usual window seat. Some of my strongest memories of Grandma are of her in that seat or of the visits on warm summer evenings when we’d gather on the large front porch. We’d spend hours out there – Grandma usually on one of the gliders, while other family members sat on porch chairs or gliders or on the wooden ledge at the top of the porch’s wall around its perimeter. The wooden ledge was a favorite spot of mine, but reserved only for the older grandchildren and adults. Sitting there came with a warning to be careful and not fall off to the ground 7 feet below. I’d often sit with my back leaning against one of the porch posts with my legs stretched out and resting on the ledge. From that front porch, we’d talk to neighbors across the road or wave at passersby in their cars or on motorcycles as they honked their horns. It was a carefree time. 

Graduation day with Grandma Alice in her yard (June 4, 1982)

In Grandma’s aging years, she had become forgetful and would sometimes be confused in her thinking. During one of our visits, we had a conversation about that kitchen window and the chair where she sat. Grandma remarked that she enjoyed sitting at the window and waving at neighbors or to those in vehicles as they passed by. I know for sure that she did because anytime that we passed by her house without stopping to visit, we’d make sure to slow down enough to catch a glimpse of her at the window, to look for her wave, and to wave at her. I waved at Grandma in that window dozens upon dozens of times throughout my life. As our conversation proceeded, Grandma, as serious as could be, went on to tell us that she needed to be at that window, for if she wasn’t at the window, then the people wouldn’t wave at her. There’s no doubt that Grandma was convinced of that.

Our family still chuckles over Grandma’s declaration every time it’s retold. And yes, it is true. My Grandma Alice, The Lady in the Window, took her last breath while sitting in her chair at the window. On her final day at the window, my dad, who faithfully visited her every day, made the short drive from his house to see his Ma. On that early summer evening, as he approached the side porch of the house and looked toward the window, he noticed that she was still, and that she hadn’t waved. I’ve wondered different times about who the final person was that she waved to and who the final person was that she saw wave to her. 

Grandma waited and she watched. She was ready at that window every day. I know that Grandma was always ready to wave to her neighbors and even to strangers who would pass by. I don’t know if on that last day, she expected Jesus to call upon her. She believed in Him. She claimed Him as Savior. She had sat in the pews of that small church learning about the Gospel of Christ. But, did she expect to see Him that day? Did He wave to her or did He gesture for her to go with Him? I trust that she was ready to meet Him on that day.

Grandma Alice, Christmas 1994, age 74

Are we waiting and watching for Jesus? Are we ready for Him? Are we dressed for service with our lamps burning? When He knocks, will we open the door? Have you opened the door of your heart to Him?

HOPE NUGGET: “Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, like servants waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him. It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes…..You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.” [Luke 12: 35, 36, 37a, 40]

Flashlight Tag

A favorite activity of our 2 and 4 year old granddaughters on “sweepover” nights is playing “Flashlight Tag” with Pappy & Grammy. The popular children’s game of Hide-and-Seek can be traced back to second century Greece. It’s a game that most anyone reading this probably played as a child. The game resurfaced in our household when grandchildren came along, with Uncle Nick being “It” and little Junie hiding in the same spot every time under the covers in the bed of “The Toy Story room.” She would run back through the hallway giggling and diving under the covers of that bed, convinced that she was fooling Uncle Nick and that he would not be able to find her this time! 

Flashlight Tag hiding place!

Our game of Hide-and-Seek evolved into a game which we now call Flashlight Tag. This game has become a routine for us played on sleepover nights after the sun goes down and before bedtime stories. The past 2 weeks of Christmas vacation included countless rounds of Flashlight Tag. The team of Hiders uses their flashlights to find a good hiding spot and after shouts of “Ready, Set, Here We Come!” the team of Seekers uses their flashlights to locate the Hiders. Flashlight Tag with 2 and 4 year olds is highly entertaining …. flashlights left on while in their hiding spots, laughter coming from the places of hiding, hiding over and over in the same locations, and shouts of surprise when a hider is found! 

On Sunday morning, our last day of Christmas vacation together before their drive to the airport, we did something different together by holding “House Church” at Pappy and Grammy’s. We read the Bible story of Jonah and sang songs and talked about how Jonah ran from God. Like 2-year old Ellie playing Flashlight Tag and thinking that she could leave the flashlight turned on while under the cover and not be found, Jonah mistakenly thought that he would not be visible to God if he went in a direction opposite of Ninevah, the place where God had commanded him to go. Jonah thought that he could run from God. He thought that by boarding the ship sailing for Tarshish that he could avoid obeying God’s voice. He ran, but he could not hide. The cover of the ship did not keep God from finding Jonah’s hiding spot. [Jonah 1]

Our House Church lesson…paintings by Junie and Ellie

Our 4 year old granddaughter has improved her skills in Flashlight Tag. She stays quiet when hiding, she doesn’t leave on her flashlight, and she now tries to find unique and different hiding locations. She understands that even when putting a lot of effort into hiding that sooner or later she will be found. Do you wonder why Jonah had the idea that he could avoid God’s plan for him to speak to the people of Ninevah? How could he have not realized that no matter how far he traveled that he wouldn’t escape God’s presence? Why did it take something as drastic as being in the belly of a great fish for three days for Jonah to submit to the will of God? Will God need to get your attention or my attention by appointing a great fish to swallow us?

HOPE NUGGET: “I called out to the LORD, out of my distress, and he answered me; out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and you heard my voice.” [Jonah 2:2]

Throw Your Cares Upon God!

While many tonight are marking the end of the year and celebrating the start of a new year surrounded by friends (or strangers) in an atmosphere of noisemakers and fireworks and loud music, I’m comfortably relaxing at home in my recliner. The calm and quiet of this evening has provided me with the opportunity to reflect on the past year. It’s been a good year. A blessed year. In countless ways. That doesn’t mean though that the year wasn’t without its problems. It had its share of troubles. For me and for you.

Today, on the final day of the year, not all is well and not all is perfect. Some of you are carrying great burdens. Some of you are facing major trials. Some of you are not in a celebratory mood. Your burdens are weighing you down. Though my burdens and concerns may not be as great as some of you, I too carry them into the new year…. The concern of a beloved family member in his illness… Disappointment… Important decisions to be made… Heartache for a close friend and her family… An unspoken situation which is affecting dear friends… Sadness… Anxiety… Weariness… Stress… A host of trials facing family and friends….

Though the year included grief, illness, sadness, and even though some of these troubles are left unresolved, my Hope is in The One who is able to carry my burdens. As a follower of Christ, I can trust the promises given by God to the people of God. If you’re a follower, you can trust those promises of help too. If you’re not a follower, if you haven’t repented of sin and turned to Him as your Savior, I urge you to do it now. Don’t enter another year, don’t go into 2020 without having made the choice to follow Christ. Choosing to follow Him doesn’t mean escaping all trials, but it does mean having the burden of sin removed and it does mean having access to the multitude of promises of God found throughout the Bible.

May 2020 be a year filled with the Love, Forgiveness, Peace, and Hope of Christ for you and yours.

HOPE NUGGET (1 Peter 5:7):
We are told to cast our anxieties (or cares) upon the Lord which literally means that we throw them upon Him. He is able to carry the burden for us AND He cares THAT MUCH for us!

God, What do You want me to do?

God, what is it that you want me to do? I asked that question nearly 2 years ago and referred to it as “the most important question of 2018.” I was seeking God’s direction in my life for what He wanted me to do and for how He wanted me to devote my time in ministry and in the work of the church. I had been leading a weekly Young Adults ministry which I truly enjoyed with young adults who I love. After putting thought, prayer and counsel into the decision, the Young Adults ministry came to an end and I became involved in a ministry which was in need of volunteers. This new ministry was not one that I felt particularly called to, but I chose to make the change because of the need for leaders. God has certainly brought about plenty of blessings as a result.

Now with 2020 just around the corner, the most important question to be asked hasn’t changed. It’s still: “God, what do You want me to do?” We’ll all have decisions to make and important questions to ask of ourselves. What is it that God is leading me to do? Will I sincerely seek Him in prayer, asking for His guidance and direction? How will my decisions impact others? Will I seek advice and counsel from the godly? Will I get my advice from those who will be honest with me or only from those who tell me what I want to hear? If I only follow advice given by those who tend to tell me what I want to hear, I can be assured of having limited growth and will likely not be stretched or challenged to improve. 

As our sons were growing up (and as proud parents who dearly love them and think highly of them), we encouraged and affirmed and supported them in their pursuits and interests and talents. We also though realized the importance of being direct and honest with them about their shortcomings. Sometimes it caused hurt feelings, sometimes it wasn’t very well received, but we knew that truly loving our sons meant that unpleasant discussions were sometimes necessary. It was up to us as loving parents to give honest advice and counsel to the best of our ability without just making it easy on ourselves by telling them what we knew they wanted to hear. It’s funny now that as our sons are in their 30s, they sometimes advise me. Yes, I respect, appreciate and give consideration to their advice and counsel. Every now and then, I’ll hear one of them say, “Moooommmm…” I’m definitely aware that I fall short of knowing everything, and that from time to time I need to rely on a little nudge from others to be redirected. It’s a great blessing to have wise and godly friends and family. It has been to my benefit when I’ve been willing to “Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you [I] may gain wisdom in the future” (Proverbs 19:20).

In just a few days, 2020 will be here. A new year. A time when many of us look at making changes and improvements. If we’re wise, we’ll seek God for direction and we’ll accept guidance from an abundance of counselors (Proverbs 11:14). What changes do we need to make? What can we do to improve? How can we be more of a blessing to others? Are we to do what’s easy? Are we to do what’s safe? Are we to do what’s most pleasurable? Sometimes, perhaps. But above all, we are to do what He leads us to do. Sometimes for the sake of filling a need. Sometimes for the sake of others. Sometimes setting aside our own yearnings or desires. Sometimes following a path that isn’t laid out beautifully and sometimes following one that is a bit rough and not completely clear. God, what is it that You want us to do? For those of us who love God and who are called according to His purpose, may all things work together for GOOD in 2020 and beyond. (Romans 8:28)

HOPE NUGGET: Keep hold of instruction; do not let go; guard her, for she is your life. [Proverbs 4:13]

Happy Birthday, in Heaven

Thirty-two years ago today, my sweet nephew Daniel entered the world and forever changed our lives. At his sixth month in utero, it was determined that Daniel had hydrocephalus, often referred to as “water on the brain.” Hydrocephalus is a condition in which there is a buildup of cerebrospinal fluid in the cavities (ventricles) deep within the brain. The excess fluid increases the size of the ventricles and puts pressure on the brain. The diagnosis of hydrocephalus meant that brain damage would most likely occur during development due to the pressure caused by the fluid buildup.

As can be imagined, receiving this news about their baby was devastating for my sister and brother-in-law, a young and newly married couple. Daniel was indeed born with severe brain damage which led to a host of disabilities. Daniel had a feeding tube and a colostomy and was unable to walk or talk. He was completely dependent upon his parents for his full care. When he was just a year old, Dr. Ben Carson – yes, That Ben Carson – performed surgery on Daniel. He informed Danny’s parents, Leslie & Cy, that the corpus callosum was not formed. The corpus callosum is the bridge between the left and right sides of the brain that allows information to pass between the two halves.

Being born with brain damage and an unformed corpus callosum though didn’t stop Daniel from learning, even learning sign language! Daniel loved music, toys with lights and sounds, and interaction with those around him. The sillier a person was when they played or interacted with Danny, the better he liked it! He laughed so hard sometimes that tears streamed down his cheeks. Daniel’s life brought blessings to our family that we would not have known without him.

If you ask Cy and Leslie how they did it – how they handled caring for a highly-involved child for 12 years, how Cy held down a job the entire time, how they managed numerous surgeries and extended hospital stays, how they took care of a second son born about 5 years later, and how at the age of 12 years they said their final goodbye on this earth to their dearly-loved firstborn son, they would say that God gave them strength through their dependence on Him. Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever [Psalm 73: 25-26]. They would say that Daniel was a blessing and never a burden. They would answer without hesitation that they would willingly do it all over again.

Despite the many challenges that came during his 12 short years of life, Daniel’s joy was infectious and his laughter was contagious! He gave and received more love & happiness than many people do in a lifetime. He was a pleasant boy and it showed even on his worst days, even on the many days when he was very ill. It’s hard to find a picture of him without a smile on his face! You will always be loved, Daniel!! HAPPY 32ND BIRTHDAY IN HEAVEN!! 

HOPE NUGGET: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. [Lamentations 3: 22-23]

With Wings as Eagles

“But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” These words from Isaiah 40:31 were the last words that I spoke to my mother-in-law on July 30, 2011. Her husband, 5 sons, 4 daughters-in-law and grandchildren had gathered around her hospital bed to say final goodbyes. One by one, we took turns at her bedside to express our love and “see-you-later” to her. As I stood there, already grieving what I knew would be a great loss, the verse from Isaiah played over and over in my mind. I had asked God to give me words that would comfort Margaret. She was a woman of faith. A woman who passed on a heritage of faith to her children and through them to her grandchildren. 

Mom and Dad Huff and their boys

Why am I writing a blog post about her today? It’s not the anniversary of her entry into heaven. It’s not her birthday. She came to mind today, I believe, because this is the first day of November, Thanksgiving month. The month which is associated with thankfulness. I’m thankful for Margaret. Thankful that we had so many years with her. I’m thankful for the influence of faith that she had on her family, the greatest gift that she could have left for us. My husband has said more than once that he would not want to disappoint his mom. I’m certain that the desire to honor his God-fearing (and God-loving) mother influenced his decisions and kept him on the “straight and narrow.” I’m also certain that her influence affected his own decision to follow and serve Christ.

A joyous memory: the trip to Niagara Falls

Our family hasn’t been the same since that day when God welcomed her into His presence for eternity. In spite of the hole left in our family and in spite of our continued grief, we will joyfully celebrate this 9th Thanksgiving without her. We will celebrate, knowing that she is with her Father in Heaven, with her Savior Jesus. How do we know where she is? Through hope. The hope of Christ in God’s promise to those whose faith is placed in Him. The hope that she had in knowing that she was redeemed by the one who died for her so that she would have eternal life. It is the same hope on which I hang my hat as well.

My favorite photo of Margaret, a spunky redhead

HOPE NUGGET: Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. [John 5:24]

In the Beginning, God.

Our family enjoys homemade foods and prepares them as much as possible. We like growing our own organic vegetables and fruits, picking wild berries, and preserving canned and frozen foods for later use. We feel blessed to have our own little garden paradise. A while back, I became interested in making homemade apple cider. We started out by purchasing a small tabletop fruit press. It worked well, but was good for just making small amounts at a time. It became obvious that we needed a bigger press to handle the amount of cider we wanted to process. Fortunately, my husband is somewhat of a “jack of all trades.” He often jokingly adds “and master of none,” but that’s what a man of humility says. Anyway, plans were found online to build a larger fruit press and the wood, tools, and metal parts were purchased. After a lot of hard work and time on Scott’s part, we ended up with a masterpiece! The result was a beautiful homemade fruit press which we now use in the fall to prepare fresh apple cider!

In the biblical account of creation, the Garden of Eden is first mentioned in Genesis 2:8. In the verses prior, we read of the creation of the heavens and earth, light, plants, animals and man. God Himself planted a garden paradise; it was perfect, unlike the lovely, but imperfect garden growing in our yard. In His garden, God caused to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, along with the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:9).

God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:15-17). It was there in the Garden of Eden where God created woman out of one of the ribs of Adam. Sadly, in this beautiful garden which God marvelously created, man (and woman) failed. Creation became marred by sin. Through the freewill given to man by God, the choice to sin was made. With that choice came consequences – consequences which would forever affect all of mankind.

HOPE NUGGET: 
Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned…..For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ [Romans 5: 12, 17].